The East Whittier School District has formed a 23-member task force to study enrollment patterns that have left some schools crowded and others half-empty, Supt. Gary Mills said. Options the group will examine include closing a school, changing attendance boundaries and realigning grades.

By the end of the decade, Mills estimates another 600 to 700 students will have entered the district, which now has 6,372 students. Crowding is becoming a problem at some of the district's 12 campuses, Mills said.

At the same time, some classrooms and buildings are half-empty at other schools, including Ceres Elementary School and several of the middle schools. "At some campuses 30% to 50% of buildings are not being used," Mills said.

The superintendent said the district needs to balance its enrollment to use the district's school sites more effectively. While closing a school is one option, Mills said, there is a "good chance of resolving the problem without taking the often-emotional step of closure."

However, the other two options also pose problems, particularly in a district in which there is no busing. All students in the district walk to schools, but changing attendance boundaries or realigning grade levels at several schools could mean a longer walk for some.

"The task force has to be very sensitive to walking patterns and distances," Mills said. "We are not in a position financially to begin busing."

District enrollment peaked in the early 1970s, when it hit 13,000.

Members of the task force include one parent from each school, two principals, four teachers, an East Whittier Employees Assn. member, a classified employee, two Whittier residents or merchants and a school board member.

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